Drive to improve university civic engagement wins £3.7 million

Sheffield Hallam to develop new framework assessing English higher education institutions’ community development activities

September 29, 2022
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England - April 17 2021 Sheffield Hallam University campus buildings. Picture taken from the train station.
Source: iStock

Nearly £4 million will be invested over the next three years in a major project aimed at boosting English universities’ civic leadership role.

The National Civic Impact Accelerator, led by Sheffield Hallam University, will gather evidence of what works in community engagement and develop a “Civic Impact Framework” to monitor and assess higher education institutions’ activities in this area.

The NCIA has been awarded £3.7 million of funding from Research England, it was announced on 29 September. Bringing together universities, local government, businesses and community groups, the centre will run trials of civic engagement strategies, and seek to share best practice across the sector.

Sheffield Hallam was chosen to lead the programme in recognition of its work as host of the Civic University Network, funded by the UPP Foundation, which encourages institutions to aid the development of their local communities.

Partners in the project include the Bristol-based National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, the Institute for Community Studies, the West Midlands Regional Development Institute at the University of Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Richard Calvert, Sheffield Hallam’s deputy vice-chancellor, said he was “delighted” with the funding boost.

“We know through our role in leading the Civic University Network that there is growing civic leadership across the sector, and a desire for more support and collaboration to help realise universities’ civic potential,” Professor Calvert said.

“Through this programme we aim to deliver impact beyond the sector through strengthened relationships, collaboration and greater alignment between universities and local ecosystems.”

Development of the Civic Impact Framework will be led by Sheffield Hallam’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. The university has appointed a leading expert in civic engagement, John Goddard, former deputy vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, as a visiting professor to work on the new project.

“The launch of the NCIA comes at a critical time for local communities across the country as we face major global challenges. I believe NCIA can actively support universities play a key role in helping our communities address these challenges,” Professor Goddard said.

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